An intruder! How'd he get in?

by Cackling Moron

Chapter 1: The usual way

The usual way

I'm a simple man. I like Princess Celestia, I like stories which don't actually really have anything happen in them, I like different versions of the same human who is pretty obviously just me some guy, and I like Princess Celestia.

I've also got a splitting headache and am going to bed.

The usual way

With court business concluded for the day, Princess Celestia was free to retire to her study, there to engage in other, non-court business.

This particular business would be letters, for there were always letters. Letters to be read, letters to be sent, letters requiring a reading and a signature before being sent. Always and forever. Came with the territory.

She didn’t mind. If anything she was having a fairly good day by all accounts, humming happily to herself as she signed yet another form of questionable importance and set it to one side to be dealt with later.

All was as well as could be expected.

But why could she smell toast?

Sniffing she paused, quill poised. She really could smell toast!

This was such a bizarre development she was momentarily at a loss. Had she been smelling toast for a while and simply not realising it? Or had she only just started smelling it? And either way, why? How? Since what? Who? Where?

And so on.

It did also rather make her want toast.

Curious and hungry she glanced around, not really thinking she’d actually see anything because that would just be too easy.

And there, standing stock-still in a rather frayed dressing gown, piece of toast held in his teeth, large steaming mug in one hand, was a bipedal, patchily-bearded thing staring at her with a certain level of restrained alarm, the only thing stopping him from backing away being that she’d noticed that he had been in the process of backing away.

Not what she’d expected to see, and she rather got the impression she wasn’t what he’d expected to see either.

“Hello,” she said.

He took the toast out of his mouth with his free hand.

“Hello,” he said.

Neither of them knew how to follow this up. Tentatively he took another step backwards, though what he was backing towards was a wall. One glance back told him this, and he frowned. Celestia put her quill down.

“How did you get in here?” She asked. Not aggressively and not angrily, more curious than anything.

The thing looked around the room, taking in the windows (looking out over a very high, vertiginous view of the sort you would have to worry about if you didn’t have wings, which he didn’t), the lack of a door in the direction he had been backing towards and the only other way in being the actual door, which was all the way across the room away from him.

Having noted all this he looked back to Celestia and shrugged sheepishly.

“Would you believe me if I said I don’t know? I think I got lost on the way back from the kitchen,” he said.

“You are quite far from the kitchens.”

Very far indeed. And that was the least of the issues here. He shook his head though.

“No I mean my kitchen. I turned left when I meant to turn right and, ah, well. Here I am.”

“I...see,” said Celestia.

Stranger things had happened. Indeed, stranger things often did. Not that this cleared anything up.

The thing took a loud, crunching, crumb-scattering bite of toast. He only noticed the crumbs afterwards, glancing down at the mess he’d made on the luxuriant carpet and wincing apologetically. Celestia didn’t mind. Carpets could be cleaned.

“You seem surprisingly relaxed given your circumstances,” she said.

Having apparently decided that making mess was inevitable he’d crammed the rest of the toast into his mouth at this point and had to chew hurriedly for a moment or two before replying, swallowing heavily, brushing his hand on his dressing gown and scratching his head.

“Well it’s not the first time. This sort of thing usually works out itself out sooner rather than later though. It’ll be fine,” he said.

Celestia smiled again, happy at this answer just for how little it helped.

“That raises several questions,” she said.

“It does, doesn’t it? I think it was me painting the hall. Never had this trouble before.”

Further questions still. Questions on stilts.

“You can sit, if you’d prefer?” Celestia said, nodding towards the seat the opposite side of the desk to her.

The thing vacillated, clutching his mug, before clearly decided that he didn’t have anything better to do and nowhere better to be and that standing around wasn’t helping him overmuch. He came over and sat down.

“Thank you,” he said, adjusting his dressing gown with his non-mug carrying hand.

“It’s quite alright,” Celestia said, sipping her own tea. “So this sort of thing has happened to you before?” She asked.

“Once or twice. Not here, course, other places. Odd places. Or perhaps I’m the odd one in normal places, heh. Mean, you’re a talking horse - odd for me, normal for here I’d expect, yes?”

“Fairly normal,” she said with a grin. He grinned back, raised his mug. She saw that it had the letters ‘UNT’ on it, and this meant nothing to her. Made her grin wider though. Another little, strange thing to brighten up her day.

“See? Makes me the odd one out. Until I go back. So don’t mind me, really. Just passing through,” he said, taking a swig of what Celestia could tell was tea by the smell and looking around the room some more. Celestia just watched him.

“Very plush room, this,” he said at length, looking back to her. “And that’s a crown. I feel like I’ve interrupted something important somewhere important.”

“Strictly speaking you’re trespassing in royal chambers and interrupting a princess as she deals with royal business,” Celestia said, taking pains to keep her voice neutral and casting a deliberate eye at the papers spread across her desk.

His eyebrows raised at this. He then drunk some more tea.

“That’s unfortunate,” he said.

Celestia leaned over towards him and whispered:

“I won’t tell if you won’t.”

He zipped his lips.

As amusing as that was - and she did rather enjoy it - it did still leave the lingering question of what she was meant to do now. Keeping on signing things with him just sitting there seemed rather rude, so what else? Looking across the papers again for inspiration her eyes caught on something, and an idea bloomed.

She pulled out a pair of recently-unfurled scrolls from beneath heaps of other paperwork.

“I received a letter from my student and a friend of hers today. Only glanced at them before but they looked quite interesting. We could read them together, if you’d like?” She said.

He plainly considered this a very strange thing to suggest, but actually saying so would have been rude. Far more polite to just make it obvious with the look on his face. The face of someone who’d just had a plate of offal wafted under their nose without warning and hadn’t settled on how they felt about the experience quite yet.

“Um...okay?” He said, tentative.

“To pass the time before your situation works itself out,” Celestia said, by way of explanation.

When she put it like that he could sort of see the logic involved, and it didn’t seem quite as strange anymore. Still pretty strange, but not overwhelmingly strange, and given how strange things already were, merely ‘pretty’ strange was about as close to normal as you could hope to get.

“Sounds good to me,” he said.

And so she read them.

The first letter she read was from the friend of the student and stated - quite succinctly - that friends were great but sometimes you had to choose how to spend your time with them, but that was fine. A solid lesson, really.

The second letter was from the student and was longer and provided some actual context for the first letter. Context in this instance involving some sort of magical mirror pool, clones and a mild existential crisis that was resolved with paint.

“Again, paint. There’s always paint somewhere,” he said, nodding knowingly on hearing this part and raising his mug. Taking a sip he grimaced.

“My tea’s gone cold,” he said, staring glumly down.

How could tea do that? Always fine then suddenly, when you turn your attention away for a split-second, pow! Icy. It boggled the mind.

Celestia knew his pain.

“Oh, I can help with that,” she said.

And she did, with magic. Lo and behold his tea was reheated, the mug immediately steaming again after being briefly enveloped in a glowing magical field. He eyed it with alarm and took an experimental sip, finding it scalding.

“Magic. How quietly terrifying. Thank you kindly.”

“Little worse than cold tea,” she said, hovering over her own teacup, surreptitiously reheating its contents and taking a sip.

“Indeed. I’d challenge anyone to name even one thing worse. One thing!” He said boldly, holding up a finger. Celestia clasped a hoof to her chest in horror.

“I couldn’t possibly!”

“No-one could, for there is nothing worse!”

They had a laugh. They both knew the score.

“I think your door has come back,” Celestia then said, looking over his shoulder at a wall of her study that shouldn’t have had a door, but now did. Through the door (which was open, for it was more of a doorway than an actual door) was somewhere that was most certainly not the castle. He looked over his shoulder too.

“Ah, that took longer than usual. Still, said it’d sort itself out, didn’t I? I better not waste time…”

This he said while standing up and fiddling with his dressing gown again, the thing having come loose while he’d been sitting. This was difficult one-handed so, wordlessly, Celestia held his mug for him while he tightened up the belt again. He nodded thanks as he grabbed the mug back.

“Much obliged. Now I really should hurry, no telling if that’ll stick around. Very nice of you to take the time out of your royal schedule to entertain the interloper,” he said, pausing on the threshold of the doorway. A doorway which, Celestia saw on closer inspection (having followed him over the better to say a proper goodbye), appeared to be vibrating.

Probably not a normal doorway, all things considered.

“Usually when I’m interrupted it’s an attempt to take over the world, so this has been a refreshing and enjoyable change of pace,” she said.

“I can’t tell if you’re joking or not and, honestly, I’m not sure I want to know. You have fun now - be seeing you,” he said, waving farewell with some kind of odd salute before stepping through.

Celestia blinked then - catching herself by surprise as she hadn’t actually had any desire to blink, and had just done it out of nowhere - and the doorway was gone. Beyond the toast crumbs there was no sign that there’d been any visitor at all.

The door then opened, and Luna’s head poked in, peering around curiously a moment or two.

“Sister, are you talking to yourself again?” She asked.

“Oh you know, every day a little bit closer to losing my mind,” Celestia said, moving back to her desk and taking her seat again. Luna’s eyes narrowed.

“You are not telling me something,” she said.

Celestia, sitting up perfectly straight, adopted an expression and bearing of total and complete innocence. She also got the sunlight to shine just so into the room, the better to really sell the effect. Cheating, yes, but she could and it was for humorous effect and so totally justified.

“I couldn’t possibly say I had the faintest idea of what you might be referring to,” she said.

Luna’s eyes narrowed even further, now the merest slits of total suspicion.

“Hmm,” she said, withdrawing slowly back from the study, her steady gaze not leaving Celestia. “HMM.”

The door closed again, leaving Celestia on her own with her letters. She took up the quill from where she’d set it down and, humming once more, got back down to it.

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